The Path From a Counselor to a Counseling Supervisor
Updated: Sep 28, 2019
The supervision model that I resonate with the most is the integrative supervision model. As a systemic therapist, I also believe that no matter which styles are being discussed during the supervision, at least to some extent the systemic lens should always be present. I am grateful for the fact that I learned marriage and family therapy after my Master’s degree since it opened my eyes to a whole new world of therapy modalities. This wealth of knowledge, theories, and interventions can be all used selectively or combined for the benefit of the clients.
As a clinician, I draw from the many various modalities I know, and always strive to learn more, while deepening my understanding and practice of the ones I love. It just makes perfect sense to me that a supervision model should build on a variety of therapeutic models, bound together by the broader perspective of systems theory.
From all the different supervision models, to choose one that I think works best is an impossible task. When I hear a therapist saying that they are an EFT therapist or a solution-focused therapist, I always feel a little worried if they announce that this is the most effective way of working with clients. I see in that the danger of dogma, lack of flexibility, and the stagnation of growth. Being overly attached to only one model is in a way choosing to understand human experience and the process of change just in one particular way.
I believe that each therapist should use whatever modalities they feel most comfortable with, and as an integrative supervisor having a deep understanding of the various therapies would allow me to help the most. It is also my responsibility to help my supervisees grow, and growth comes from being exposed to new ideas, questioning old ones, testing, and integrating old and new.
The integrated developmental model by Stoltenberg et al. (1998) brakes down the development of the supervisee into four distinct stages and guides the supervisor at the different stages of supervisee development. The model describes four main levels in the development of the supervisee (Bernard & Goodyear, 2018). Each level has three points of focus: Self-other awareness, motivation, and autonomy. As the supervisee progresses through the stages, they generally gain more independence and awareness, while the anxiety decreases. Even though the supervisor has different roles in each stage, generally speaking, the primary goal of the supervisor is to help their supervisee to move to the next level in their development.
High motivation, high anxiety and high dependency on the supervisor, low self-awareness. The supervisor's role is to create structure, empower with positive feedback, and mostly avoid direct confrontation and challenging the supervisee.
Fluctuations in motivation, autonomy, and self-confidence. Supervisor’s role is to be more of an instructor. It is important for the supervisor to be able to be flexible while helping the therapist during this turbulent time, many times with the help of humor.
Consistent motivation and a high degree of self-confidence. Supervision is more collegial, there is more opportunity for direct challenging.
Level 3i (Integrated)
High self-awareness, and integration of various domains such as treatment, assessment, and conceptualization. The supervisor’s role is to foster the integration process.
As I previously stated, I relate the most with the integrative supervision model. I believe that this model is closely correlated with the integrated developmental model. The emphasis in both is on the integration of modalities, and different domains in the therapist’s work. In each of the levels, the supervision work can be done using any of the therapy based supervision models, while keeping in mind the systemic influence that the supervisor-supervisee has on the clients’ system.
The first stage is where the supervisee’s development is the most crucial. In a sense, a new therapist in training is like a newborn baby; the baby is helpless in a new, potentially scary world, and is relying entirely on the primary caregiver to survive. For the therapist to even have a chance to develop their therapeutic skills, there needs to be a safe container. One of the most critical tasks of the supervisor during the level 1 stage is to provide such a container by positive reinforcement and support.
To develop a working alliance with my supervisee, I would do my best to understand from the beginning what are the most important goals for them, and what would be most helpful for them. Even though I might have my own ideas about what would be useful, I want to create a collaborative mentorship relationship, that is different than the relationship of a teacher and a student. I also would use a lot of strengths-based feedback, and not just during level 1 of the supervisee’s development, but at any stage. Gradually, I would start challenging my supervisee, making sure not to discourage them while doing that.
I expect that during my own development as a supervisor, the type of supervision I will provide will change. The same way that I learn and practice more therapy modalities, I will be able to integrate more supervision styles. The goal here is of course not to prefer quantity over quality, but to draw from a wide variety of models, to better fit the supervisee, and by the method of synthesis develop my own style, that would utilize my strengths as a supervisor in the best ways possible.
Different ethical considerations may be related to the various stages of a counselor supervisee. For example, in the beginning, during level 1, the supervisor might be seeing some mistakes that the supervisee does, and they might feel that they are in a bind. On the one hand, making mistakes is the only way to learn, and it is to be expected. On the other, the supervisor is not only responsible for the supervisee, but also for the welfare of supervisee’s clients. The supervisor needs to make sure that they balance the learning experience of the supervisee with making sure that no harm is being done to the supervisee’s clients.
Another example would be that during level 3, when the supervising relationship becomes more collegial, the supervisor might believe that their responsibility for the safety of the supervisee’s clients diminished since now the supervisee is more experienced. This is a dangerous approach and can lead to negligence.
Sasha Raskin, MA, is an international #1 bestselling co-author , the founder and CEO of Go New , a transformational education program, a life, and business coach and a psychotherapist in Boulder, CO. He is working on a P.h.D in Counseling Education and Supervision and is an adjunct faculty at the Contemplative Counseling master’s program at Naropa University, from which he also graduated. Sasha has been in the mental health field for more than 10 years, worked with youth at risk, recovery, mental health hospitals, and coached individuals, couples, families, startups, and groups. He has created mindfulness stress reduction and music therapy programs within different organizations. Whether it’s in person or via phone/video calls, Sasha uses cutting-edge, research-based techniques to help his clients around the world to thrive.
As a coach Sasha Raskin provides individual and group coaching in Boulder, Colorado, and worldwide via video and phone calls, drawing from over ten years of experience. His services include: life coaching, business coaching, career coaching, ADD / ADHD coaching, leadership coaching, and executive coaching. Schedule your free 20-minute coaching phone consultation with Sasha Raskin
As a counselor in Boulder, CO, Sasha provides individual counseling in Boulder, CO , family therapy in Boulder, CO, and couples therapy in Boulder, CO, marriage counseling in Boulder, Colorado, and couples intensives / couples retreats, drawing from over ten years of clinical experience. Schedule your free 20-minute psychotherapy phone consultation with Sasha Raskin
Bernard, J. M. & Goodyear, R (2013). Fundamentals of Clinical Supervision, 5th Edition. London, UK: Pearson Learning Solutions.
Stoltenberg, C. D., McNeill, B. W., & Delworth, U. (1998). IDM: An Integrated Developmental Model for supervising counselors and therapists. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.